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Potato Lake home suffers chimney fire

The living room suffered fire and water damage in Monday morning's fire. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

A Hubbard County man and his daughter narrowly escaped a chimney fire early Monday morning that caused extensive damage to their Potato Lake home.

Nearly 30 firefighters from Park Rapids and Nevis responded to the 2 a.m. call off County Road 40.

"The fire alarm sounded," said Laura Krupich, a Fargo resident who was staying with her father, Richard Krupich.

"Otherwise we probably wouldn't be here."

Laura Krupich said she could see flames in a small opening in the wall near the fireplace, but the fire extinguisher was useless in putting out the blaze.

Her father went next door to the Bayside Resort on the northeast arm of Potato Lake while she raced to gather a few family photos.

The fire rapidly spread to the stairs and upper level of the wood home, which is actually a duplex owned by family members.

Only Laura and her father were home at the time.

Monday morning, Laura's four brothers, Mark, Ken, Steve and Jim arrived from Fargo to assess the damage and start removing valuables from the home.

Laura said neighbor Norris Hokeness, owner of the resort, came over to help her drain appliances and water lines to prevent possible freeze-up.

With temps dipping below 20 degrees below zero at the time of the fire, Laura said it was impossible to save the pipes.

Monday she was still wearing a face mask to protect her lungs from the searing cold. She said she didn't know if she would seek medical attention for the smoke inhalation she suffered.

"She's a nurse," Hokeness explained. "She'll know if she needs to go in."

Laura and her brothers were going through the house to save firearms and other valuables.

She was touched to find a family picture in the refrigerator where a firefighter had placed it to save it.

"The cause of the fire was from a chimney fireplace," said Fire Chief Donn Hoffman. "There was a considerable amount of content damage. The structure is sound. There's not a lot of noticeable damage outside.

For structure fires, Park Rapids always calls in a second department.

"They were our closest unit," Hoffman said. "The Hubbard County fire chiefs have gotten together and we're setting up an automatic mutual aid for anything called in as a structure fire."

He said the family had the chimney cleaned last fall in the two-story stone fireplace.

"I don't think it was because of that," he said. "The chimney was damaged. The flue walls had either come apart or they had received some damage due to deterioration."

One of the brothers brought up a framed Forum article about the home when it was built in 1995.

That was the second chimney fire Monday in the region. In Otter Tail County, Wadena and Deer Creek firefighters responded to a sawmill fire on Otter Tail County 50 east of Deer Creek.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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